[ duhn-kurk ]

  1. French Dun·kerque [dœn-kerk]. /dœ̃ˈkɛrk/. a seaport in N France: site of the evacuation of a British expeditionary force of over 330,000 men under German fire May 29–June 4, 1940.

  2. a period of crisis or emergency when drastic measures must be enforced: The smaller nations were facing a financial Dunkirk.

  1. a city in W New York, on Lake Erie.

Words Nearby Dunkirk

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use Dunkirk in a sentence

  • Air raids had grown common in Dunkirk, and there were no street lights in the little city.

    The Amazing Interlude | Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • This day come the King's pleasure-boats from Calais, with the Dunkirk money, being 400,000 pistolles.

  • Reckoning it with Dunkirk and the Vendean expedition, the government had to confess to three failures in the year.

  • Apples and grapes are sent away to other points, and no doubt supply in a measure the breweries and distilleries of Dunkirk.

    Ocean to Ocean on Horseback | Willard Glazier

Cultural definitions for Dunkirk


The scene of a remarkable, though ignominious, retreat by the British army in World War II. Dunkirk, a town on the northern coast of France, was the last refuge of the British during the fall of France, and several hundred naval and civilian vessels took the troops back to England in shifts over three days.

Notes for Dunkirk

The term Dunkirk is sometimes used to signify a desperate retreat.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.